New Orleans Residents March to Demand Action Against Violent Crime Spree

More than 1,000 people marched on City Hall on Thursday, seeking an end to the violence that has claimed nine lives in this struggling city since New Year's Day.

Members of the city's popular Hot 8 Brass Band — whose drummer, Dinerral Shavers, was shot and killed in front of his family Dec. 28 — led the march, chanting "We Shall Overcome" as they carried a banner that read "March For Survival, Walk With Us."

Mayor Ray Nagin's office said the mayor would address the crowd after it completed the short trip from historic Canal Street.

Several marchers held signs reading "Silence is Violence." One said the signs were a reference to police complaints that witnesses to some killings are not coming forward.

"Seeing a crime, seeing criminal activity and not saying something is a crime. Tell somebody, even if they tell someone who can speak on your behalf. Get the word out," said Amy Brown, 35, who said she is rebuilding a home in the Central City neighborhood, home to some of the worst violence.

"Everybody that comes back is struggling, so to have this happen is so wrong," said Pauline Patterson, 40, a bar owner who lives in the neighborhood where independent filmmaker Helen Hill was shot to death last week. "I know that City Hall's hands are tied, and they need more police officers, but something has to be done."

On Wednesday, Gov. Kathleen Blanco endorsed a plan announced earlier this week to increase patrols and use checkpoints to crack down on criminals. State police and the National Guard have been supplementing police patrols since June.

New Orleans had 161 homicides last year, the lowest total in 60 years. But the population was way down from its pre-Katrina total of 455,000, and is still only about 200,000.